The ecological fallout of the Gulf oil spill continues as emergency teams plan to set fire to the surface slick in hopes of keeping it away from the coast.
The political fallout continues as well:
More bad news for the Senate climate and energy bill, as coastal-state senators with key votes voiced concerns about drilling provisions in a potential bill. They include Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.); Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.); Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.); Mark Warner (D-Vir.); Kay Hagan (D-N.C.); and George LeMieux (D-Fla.), according to The New York Times.
Even more bad news for the Senate bill, as BP, who was leasing the drilling rig, planned to join Shell Oil and ConocoPhillips in endorsing the bill and appearing at the rollout announcement this week (which was scuttled because of Senate drama). At this point, BP’s endorsement might be a kiss of death.
Charlie Crist dropped his support for offshore drilling today after flying above the slick that is spreading not far from his home state. “If this doesn’t give somebody pause, there’s something wrong,” said the Republican Florida governor, who is running for Senate as an independent. “This is, as I understand it, a pretty new rig with modern technology. As I’ve always said, it would need to be far enough, clean enough and safe enough. I’m not sure this was far enough. I’m pretty sure it was not clean enough. And it doesn’t sound like it was safe enough.”
Sens. Lautenberg, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called for a safety investigation in a letter to Senate leaders. The trio, all strong opponents of offshore drilling in the past, call the disaster “a sobering reminder of the real risk from oil drilling.”
“The explosion, ensuing fire, and continuing spill raise serious concerns about the industry’s claims that their operations and technology are safe enough to put rigs in areas that are environmentally sensitive or are critical to tourism or fishing industries,” they wrote. “This may be the worst disaster in recent years, but it’s certainly not an isolated incident.”
Investigation and litigation. Every branch of the government is now involved in investigating the disaster, as Brad Johnson notes. In the House, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, are investigating the companies’ emergency plans; the Coast Guard and Minerals Management Service are looking into the causes; and in federal court, the wife of one of the victims has sued BP, Transocean, and Halliburton for negligence.
Obama is sticking with his plan to ramp up offshore drilling, says Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. He’s making sure things are investigated, though. (Phew. We were worried there for a minute.) “We need the increased production. The president still continues to believe the great majority of that can be done safely, securely and without any harm to the environment.”
That response doesn’t seem to jibe with Rahm Emanuel’s famous advice to never let a serious crisis go to waste. If this isn’t a good occasion to talk to Americans about the problems posed by fossil fuels, well, here’s how “Turkana” at The Left Coaster puts it:
In a time of crisis, you don’t continue to promote that which is causing the crisis. You teach people how it is causing the crisis and why we have to stop it. You change the very nature of the conversation. You use the science. You use every political skill and opportunity you have. You teach people that we have to change the nature of our behavior. You teach people that we have to change the nature of our economy. You teach people that we don’t have time to waste.